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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Blacksad : Amarillo. Juan Diaz Canales (Writer), Juanjo Guardino (Art) Neal Adams & Katie LaBarbera (Translation) Dark Horse Comics (2014)

John Blacksad finds himself on the road across 1950s America, cruising in a golden Cadillac Eldorado west from New Orleans, while taking a much needed rest from the deadly dramas that dog his feline tail-or so he thinks. Before long Blacksad’s hard luck catches up with him, landing him smack in the middle of another murdr and the pursuit of a down-and-out Beat generation writer whose own luck might just have run out.
Beautiful art and engaging writing combine to deliver an entertaining story of a road trip across a mythical, noir, 1950’s America. John Blacksad gets an chance to drive a golden Cadillac Eldorado from New Orleans to Amarillo and hopes for an easy trip. It starts to go wrong when the car is stolen and there is a murder.  As Blacksad pursues the car and is in turn pursued by vengeful FBI agents, a despairing writer finds that his life is slipping further out of control as he tries to deal with falling in love with a woman in trouble and a agent wanting the manuscript he has finished but cannot release. The story threads tie up very nicely to a satisfying conclusion that captures the tone of the book very nicely.
Juan Diaz Canales has taken all the classic elements of the noir genre, and chosen to focus on the most neglected one, the wounded romance between lovers that is doomed by circumstances arising before they meet. This gives the book a less grim tone than it would otherwise deserve as the cast of desperate people swirl around each other all looking for something. One of the astonishing parts of the book is the way that Juan Diaz Canales conjures up an America that never was that still seems true and recognisable. He captures the look and feel from the mythology of post-war America, the Beat generation and the dislocated lives of those locked out of the American Dream.  The anthropomorphic cast fit perfectly into the America that never was, they are never caricatures, and they are vivid and alive, never representing anyone but themselves. There is a big heart beating in the story, it is scarred and bruised but never cold or mean spirited.
The astounding art by Juanjo Guardino is a sensual, luxurious pleasure for the reader, it invites slow reading to soak up the detail and revel in the craft. It is deeply purposeful, the details are never extra, they are there to draw out and support the story and cast. It is wonderfully balanced between so powerful that it could simply crush the story and being severely practical, delivering the context and cast so that the story in clear and explicit. Any panel is a joy in itself, combined they serve sequential storytelling with strict care and pacing to serve the overall purposes of the book. Any artist who is drawing an anthropomorphic cast has a tricky problem, tying not to betray the essential aspects of both human and animal. Juanjo Guardino cast look natural and fit into their shapes with confident ease.The translation by  Katie LaBarbera and Neal Adams is invisible, the dialogue is easy and flowing, the cast speak in distinctive voices that never jar. A glorious comic experience.

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